In Part 2 we discussed how to determine if a sales action is a critical sales performance competency, and we determined the following:
It is an Action that is tied directly to the end result (Good or Bad)
It can be individually isolated and trained to for Improvement
It can be objectively 'Benchmarked' and Measured
Next, we identified that the act of communicating one-on-one to a 'Targeted' prospect with the objective of setting an appointment as a KEY Core Sales Competency, because nothing happens until you get in front of someone. And the measurement of that competency was determined to be your 'Conversation-to-Appointment' ratio which nationally averages out to somewhere between 4%-18%.
And if we choose to build a 'Prospecting System' to support a sales performance training objective to improve that ratio it would enable us to set more targeted 'Top-down' appointments in less time. And achieving that would allow us to obtain additional results and make us more money. Not an unworthy mission for sure.
Additionally, we listed (6) sales prospecting reasons why the national 'Conversation-to-Appointment' ratio is only 4%-18%. Our mission for Part 3 is to isolate each of these reasons, understand why the majority of the sales population lives by the 'Definition of Insanity' (Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result) and then develop alternative strategies to raise our Conversation-to-appointment ratio.
Sales Prospecting Error #1
We don't seek to first (Before we pick up the telephone) understand the Prospect's internal business challenges parallel to our solutions offering, and then model our appointment communication approach around it.
How many times have you received a solicitation call and listened to a stranger communicate nonspecifically about who they are and what they want. Let me say that again "Who THEY are and what THEY want."
Just the other day I received a telephone call (I accept them ALL because they provide a great X2 training 'Lead source') and the nice lady on the other end of the line started to tell me all about who she was and what her company did. I let her go on for a while and then asked her a specific, closed-ended question:
"Do you understand who I am and what I'm trying to accomplish as it relates to what you are selling?"
Well, she did not. So I kindly left the door open to her if she decided to check out my website and find out (first) "Who I am and what I want."
Don't you think that's fair? After all, aren't most business people (Business levels tied to fiscal responsibility) open to learning about ways to recover costs, improve productivity, decrease risk, increase profits or provide a measurable Return on investment as long as it gets to the point and in line with one's own 'Internal language' not in a nonspecific marketing language of product/service and feature-benefit.
Instead of "Who you are and what you want," try switching to "What you know specifically about 'Me, Myself and I'; MY responsibilities, MY business objectives and how you think you can help ME meet them.
The web is a great resource tool for investigating general business objectives of a company; items like business web sites, 10K reports, annual reports, investor sections, Press releases and published articles. Scanning those items prior to picking about the telephone is your first winning step in the process; "Who they are".
Now for the second part; "What they want." Think of this in terms of title of responsibility and how your offering (if the shoe fits) can help them meet their personal business objectives or what I like to phrase 'Marching Orders'. If you don't know, go get some Business Acumen training around the title of responsibilities you choose to call on. Because you want to be able to discuss specific business challenges as it relates to their title of responsibility.
Or if you are a self-directed person, do what I've done for years. Interview each new client and ask them what type of communication would make them sit up and take notice coming from a stranger's initial business contact. Develop a stock series of questions to allow you to document what is important to them as it pertains to accepting business appointments and outsourcing solution providers.
You'd be amazed at the amount of valuable data you can collect just by asking for 5 additional minutes after closing a new sale. 'Go to school' on your new clients and earn a Masters degree in 'Business Title Insight'.
Sales Prospecting Error #2
We settle for a business level of contact that has no direct fiscal authority.
Your 'Playing Field' is who you decide to call on and why. And there are basically (2) strategies in picking your 'Playing Field'; a 'Bottom-up' approach or a 'Top-down' approach.
The following is an example of a Bottom-up approach. A Telecommunications rep initiates a telephone call into a company and asks the question "Who handles your telecommunications needs?" Guess where they are sent? If you said 'office manager' you guessed right. If you said 'Head Janitor' you weren't far off. Is there anything 'wrong' with that? Not really; it's legal and a lot of folks out there do it.
But let's think through this option as a 'Business person' would. Historically, a bottom-up approach promotes a:
Lower 1st appointment to Proposal ratio
Lower Closing ratio
Higher Sales cycle
Lower Average revenue per sale
That being said, from a Business person view, if we had our choice, we would choose a 'Top-down' approach; meeting with the highest appropriate level of contact for our product/service. And this is important. If our product/service is tied to a measurable Return on Investment, in soft or hard dollars over time, we need to be initially engaged with the correct title in our Prospect company. And that's the fiscal authority that can make a business decision in line with our business solution.
Sales Prospecting Error #3
We sell our 'product/service' instead of selling the diagnostic steps in our 'Evaluation' Process
So far we have decided to call on the highest appropriate level of contact for our service offering, someone that is tied to the P&L; simply, they have some 'Skin in the Game'. And we know with a 'Top-down' strategy we need to understand who our target Prospect is and what they're trying to accomplish as it relates to what we are selling. And that's BEFORE we pick up the telephone, right?
Imagine now we make that prospecting call and start to talk about our 'Widget'; meaning our Product's features and benefits, our excellent customer service, how many years we've been in business and our fantastic customer retention rate.
Are you beginning to understand now why the average 'Conversation-to-appointment' ratio is 4-18%? You might as well read off your Marketing Department's latest brochure. This is a major sales prospecting mistake because it doesn't speak first to the correlation between what your Prospects general business challenges are (By industry and title of responsibility) and how your service has helped other business people with the same titles and internal challenges.
The $100,000 question is how one goes about transitioning from a Product/service specific conversation to a 'Business Reason to Meet' conversation.
My answer to this question is to communicate your company's service solution as a 'System'. One definition of a 'system' is a series of Components and Elements that when working in unison affects a required result. It makes things better. It lowers that 'Business Challenge' wall. Those ultimate business results could be cost recovery, lower overhead, higher employee production, increase profit margin, more return on investment, faster time to market, etc. That depends on your particular system's solutions and what business challenges they are tied to.
The 'Components' of your system are sub-systems comprising a series of elements that deal with particular business issues. As an example, if you were a Security Solution Provider your components might be themed Loss Prevention, Business Operations and Risk Management, each again dealing with a relevant business challenge.
The 'elements' of your 'System' are the individual products/services that you provide your clients depending on their unique business challenges and where they may have some 'leaks in the ship'. Communicating to individual elements specifically during a prospecting sales call will take you down the 'Slippery slope' of low sales appointment conversion ratios and low sales commissions.
In-between your Components and elements you have internal Business issues. In the same Security Solution Provider example, your prospect's business issues could be Fire/Life Safety, Theft, Sweet-hearting, Vandalism, Sabotage, Robbery, and Harassment just to name a few.
It's your responsibility for an 'effective' prospecting sales call to sell the 'Diagnostic steps' in your evaluation process; to appraise if your 'System', with its series of Components and elements can facilitate lowering your prospect's 'Business Challenge' Wall; effectively gaining a Return on investment in a measurable way; because 'Business people' are accountable to ROI.
In Part 4; How to Double Your Sales Appointments in Half the Time, we will discuss the final 3 Sales Prospecting Errors and outline some proven solutions that will head us toward our worthy goal of spending Less time to achieve more targeted 'Top-down' sales appointments.
Jeff Hardesty is President of JDH Group, Inc. and the Developer of the X2 Sales System®, a blended training system that teaches sales professionals the competency of setting C-level business appointments. Jeff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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